Viral success or brand bust?

We had an interesting discussion here the other day about the new spot Kmart has out. I’ll bet you’ve heard about it or seen it: Ship My Pants.

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Seems the younger designers here think its catchy and memorable and breaks through. And it gives Kmart a more youthful edge. I don’t disagree. But I claim that’s not enough to convert the audience into Kmart shoppers. They may talk about the spot and socially share it, but I have a hard time believing they will log on and purchase clothing from a retailer that they don’t currently ship at – just for shipping (which every other online retailer does).

So I googled the spot and read a number of comments to see if I was old school about this or not. Here is part of a review I thought particularly well ‘spoken’:

I’ll tell you one thing, I love this new kmart commercial. Granted, I have never been, nor do I plan to be a kmart shopper. Regardless, that is a definite viral success.

The problem I have with it is simple, if it doesn’t get me even remotely interested in giving their store a try, is the name recognition worth anything?

The title of the spot “Ship my pants” is not only the funny line repeated throughout the spot, but also the only unique selling proposition offered. And if we are being honest, shipping from a store is nothing new or unique. How many times have you not found what you needed at a store and had the associate offer to find it and have it shipped to you at no charge? Plenty. Am I right?

If I’m going to be really negative, isn’t the message here really that kmart want’s to save money by not filling their stores with the items their customers want and would rather convince you that it’s just as good to go home empty handed and wait for a package to arrive next week? Aren’t retail stores already struggling to pull in customers who have found online shopping way more convenient? Is this a solution at all or their last desperate attempt to hold onto their brick and mortar and not just become an online warehouse?

I’d really like to know from a kmart customer’s perspective if this is a service they have been waiting for and find enticing enough to pull them into the store with greater frequency. My guess is that it will not. I see this new viral hit for what it is, a really funny and well written potty joke that I have watched at least 20 times and am laughing about as I write this post. I however have not been given any sense of urgency to get into their store.

I wish they had found a way to generate the level of buzz they did around something a little more revolutionary. This is not the fault of the marketing team around it. They nailed it. They deserve a more forward thinking client.

The way I see it, from an agency perspective, this would be like Online America calling me up today and asking me to make getting their disks in the mail cool again. I know I could make a funny commercial around it, but who would care?

My point is much the same as his –  clever is not enough. Funny is not enough. Viral is not enough. We believe our work must also deliver on the business objective – which I’m sure is increased sales. Only time will tell if  this one misses the mark and will go down in history as a perfect classroom example of a great idea that had nothing to do with strategic objectives.

by Frank Kurland

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